Jonny led worship on 12 May supported by Amanda and Tim. Tim brought the Word from Acts 9 , 46-43.
This is the story of Tabitha also known as Dorcas. It’s an amazing little story. Luke who wrote Acts is the only Gentile writing in the New Testament. It starts with a group of fearful disciples and ends with Paul preaching the word with confidence and without fear. After Saul’s conversion this must have a massive effect.
At this time the Romans had imposed a statue of Caligula in the temple of Jerusalem so that was keeping the Jews busy. Peter is now preaching and healing, he is sent for by a group of grief stricken disciples .
800 years previously Jonah had fled to Joppa. Peter now finds himself answering a similar call. He does not make the same mistake as Jonah. Dorcas was a follower of Jesus. A disciple. Tim asked us what this meant . In her case she was always doing good and helping the poor.
Image the scene , she’d died and her house was full of people she’d helped, fellow disciples, dressed in clothes made by Dorcas! Her doing good for others.
It was not a hobby it was compassion in action. Showing the practical love of God, and it is this is the only place in the New Testament where the feminine version of the word disciple appears. “How do we know Jesus is alive?” asks Tim. Good is being done and people are being helped. Reviving Dorcas gives authority to Peter’s role and Jesus’ power.
The work begun in Jesus continues in the life of his disciples and so on through us.
Another detail right at the end shows Peter staying in Joppa with Simon the tanner.
It’s mentioned later in Acts. Simon would have been an outcast. As a tanner he would have been dirty and smelt. Look it up to see what the problems would have been with a tannery. Indeed because of the smell even houses being built in well to do areas in England in the early twentieth century had specific exemptions or covenants against people using premises as a tannery. Almost anyone would have felt superior to Simon. Simon the lowest of the low had found acceptance in the Jesus band. Isn’t this just what Jesus is about. Inclusivity and acceptance, inner transformation without worrying about outward appearance. Luke’s irony is that Peter stays in this place and has a vision about unclean animals.
Here in Joppa this Jew Peter is challenged about the boundaries we can all erect.
This is good news. This is compassion for all.John’s text in Revelations 7 9:17 is relevant here, we all struggle to embrace those different to us. Can it be said of us what was said of Tabitha, are we like Simon the Tanner with his simple gift of hospitality. It’s in our everyday lives that Christ moves. It is in the simple things that we learn to be disciples . Going church is not the key, living our life in the right way amongst ordinary people is. Compassion is shown and therefore human barriers melt away. We’re invited to join in with Tabitha Dorcas, Peter and Simon the tanner. Carelessness changed to compassion . Such transformation is only possible through the spirit of Christ.